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Canberra Catholic student initiative brings an old house to life
    It's not just television's Changing Rooms crew who can transform a tired-looking house.
    Sixty-five girls and an imaginative careers adviser from St Francis Xavier College, in the Canberra suburb of Florey, managed the same over a helter-skelter 48 hours with a student's home in nearby Evatt.
    It all began with the adviser Ms Rosemary Paton seeking an activity for the year 10 girls as part of the Pathways Into Non-Traditional Occupations (PINTO) program which aims to provide girls with a taste of trades normally associated with males.
    She secured the services of a female painter and decorator and asked the school at an assembly if anyone had a spare room the girls could work on.
    Not only a spare room, but an entire house was volunteered by a student's mother - and so the work began.
    Seeing the potential of the project, Ms Paton interested the TV program A Current Affair to exclusively film the event and Changing Rooms host Suzie Wilks to drop in to boost morale.
    The girls painted the house throughout, including ceilings and walls. Inside the house, friezes were applied, bedrooms carpeted, lights installed, furniture built, curtains made and hung, bathroom and toilet tiled. A letterbox and trellis was added outside in a garden that was also transformed and a tile mosaic was designed and made for a back wall.
    Despite the rain, the girls worked on, from 6am to 8pm the first day and 7am to 4pm the next.
    The result was stunning. A Belconnen estate agent called in to provide a valuation estimated the value of the house had jumped from $117,000 to $135,000 in two days.
    The Salvation Army, which lent the students furniture for the house, were able to collect it again at the end of the exercise, repaired and revamped.
    Other businesses that offered help, material and advice included The Paint Factory, Bunnings, Spotlight, Tilecraft, McDonalds, Summers Glass, Kennard's Hire and Toys R' Us.
    "There's a misconception that girls don't want to get messy," Ms Paton said. "The message is that girls can do this kind of work and like it. They did as good a job as most tradesmen.
    "People think that students can only get to do this at college. These 15 year olds were taught trades skills, teamwork, commitment and how to carry a job through.
    "They learnt tiling, carpentry, wall-papering, painting, stencilling, horticulture and a range of other skills with qualified tradespeople supervising in every category.
    "It was an amazing experience for the girls and broadened their understanding of what career are available to them."
   
Contributed by Geoff Orchison
29-Nov-00